Thomas Edison once said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” The two cents worth of wisdom I’d add to his advice would be; avoid the mistakes others have made.
Don’t get me wrong – innovation, creativity and new thinking are essential to the nature of any entrepreneur (Edison is a great example). I would never advocate squashing individuality or originality, however, when it comes to business basics there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Here are the top five mistakes my clients no longer make.
1. Not taking your business seriously. Come on, who would not take their business seriously? Nobody intentionally.
But, if you’re not managing time well, skipping over essential planning, or if you’re grossly undercapitalized, you’re not taking your business seriously. Think of the subtle or direct messages you impart to your business by not addressing such important matters. Take planning for example. Planning is the most common business practice most often at the bottom of the to do list. Understandable, you’ve got to be out there making money – someone’s got to do it – who has time to plan?
A plan becomes your compass. Be it a business plan, marketing plan or organizing your office. The success of your business depends on the decisions you make. How can you make intelligent decisions if you don’t know where you’re going? Lack of planning leaves you ill equipped to make the critical decisions business owners need to make every day. Without a plan you’ll find yourself in crisis mode and putting out one fire after another.
What planning project is at the bottom of your to do list? I invite you to take a step back and address your planning needs. This could be the first step in retiring your fire fighter’s hat.
2. Losing yourself in your business. Have I just contradicted myself? I just told you to take your business seriously. Now I’m telling you not to lose yourself in it. Yes, business is full of paradox. I have a client, a micropreneur, who when she hired me worked 70-80 hours per week. She was very definitely taking her business seriously and was about to burn out and throw in the towel. The first thing I asked her to do was to schedule 3 vacations in the coming year, in pen in her calendar.
Balance is the key here. We all know we need balance in our lives. Why is it so hard to achieve? Regardless of how you would answer that question for yourself, you’ve got to take steps in the direction of balance of you want an ongoing and successful life and business. No more excuses.
3. Making decisions out of fear. Knowing your own edge and being willing to move beyond it is a trait of thriving business owners. Hanging at your edge, or staying in your comfort zone can impede your ability to succeed. Let me give you a very personal example.
When I was first building my business, I was encouraged to attend regular networking events to get myself out in front of potential customers. My first reaction? No thanks – I’m not the schmoozy and small talk type. Bottom line – I was afraid. I let my fear decide what was in the best interest of my company. It took me time to work through it and now I’m a local President of BNI (one of the largest business networking organizations on earth). Since I began actively networking my business has doubled.
Where’s your edge? Are you making decisions that impact your business out of fear? If so, talk about it with someone. Strive to overcome the fears that hold you back.
4. Ignoring your customers. Walt Disney said, “Give the public everything you can give them…” – Sounds like a cliché. Let me make the point relevant with an illustration of how you might inadvertently be ignoring your customers.
I was working with an energetic client who despite her best intentions and her technical prowess was finding customers slightly annoyed with her. She was puzzled. In our work we uncovered that she was delaying returning clients’ calls. She was busy putting out fires, didn’t have systems in place, and had gotten herself into a loop of fear-based thinking – her fear of not being perfect. Can you see how this combination of “mistakes” exacerbated the declining situation?
She had lost perspective and ultimately her clients suffered. Take a hard look at your own business and see if you can find some subtle or not so subtle ways you might be ignoring your customers.
5. Losing your vision. And I don’t mean your reading glasses. It’s safe to say that you probably started your business from a vision. You saw a need, a possibility, and set out to satisfy it. Your vision was your original source of inspiration. If you don’t stay in touch with your vision, your inspiration – you’re at risk for losing perspective and wondering why you’re bothering at all.
It can be tough to maintain your vision. Every business owner gets mired in detail, it’s another paradox – you’ve got to be good at the details and able to maintain the bigger vision. Staying in balance is a great way to maintain your vision. Taking time to plan is another way. Planning forces you to look at the future, know where you want to go, and remember why you’re in business in the first place.
Try it right now. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think back. Why did you start your business?
Learn from the mistakes of others that have gone before you. Learn from your own mistakes and pass your wisdom on. That’s how we all grow. You’ll maximize your ability to deliver your gifts to the world. It’s not only your success that’s at stake but how you feel about your life.
It’s YOUR life…live it completely